A provincial court in Pakistan has ordered the release of a British-born man charged with the 2002 murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl, his defence lawyer said.
Sindh High Court’s release order overturns a decision by Pakistan’s top court that Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the key suspect in Mr Pearl’s beheading, should remain in custody, his lawyer said.
Sheikh was cleared of murder earlier this year but has been held while Mr Pearl’s family appeals against the acquittal.
Sheikh’s lawyer Mehmood A Sheikh called for his client to be released immediately.
“The detention order is struck down,” said Faisal Siddiqi, the Pearl family lawyer.
Sheikh will be freed until the appeal is completed, he said, but will be returned to prison if the family is successful in overturning the acquittal.
Sheikh was sentenced to death and three others were sentenced to life in prison for their role in the plot, but a lower Pakistani court in April acquitted him and three others, a move that stunned the US government, Mr Pearl’s family and journalism advocacy groups.
The acquittal is the subject of separate appeals by the Pakistan government and Mr Pearl’s family. The government says Sheikh’s release would endanger the public.
The Supreme Court will resume its hearing on January 5.
Sheikh had been convicted of helping lure Mr Pearl to a meeting in Karachi in which he was kidnapped.
The journalist had been investigating the link between Pakistani militants and Richard C Reid, dubbed the Shoe Bomber after he tried to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami with explosives hidden in his shoes.
A gruesome video of Mr Pearl’s beheading was sent to the US consulate. The 38-year-old Wall Street Journal reporter was abducted on January 23 2002.